Apr 5, 2024 - World

Biden asks Egypt, Qatar to press Hamas to agree to hostage deal

Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants demonstrate in Tel Aviv calling for their release, on April 4, 2024,

Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza by Hamas demonstrate in Tel Aviv calling for their release, on Apr. 4, 2024. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday sent letters to the President of Egypt and the Emir of Qatar asking them to press Hamas to agree to a hostage deal that will lead to a six-week ceasefire in Gaza, a senior U.S. official said.

Why it matters: CIA director Bill Burns is expected to travel to Cairo this weekend for talks with the head of Israel's Mossad and top Qatari and Egyptian officials in an effort to break the deadlock in negotiations to secure the release of hostages being held in Gaza.

  • The current proposal being negotiated could lead to a six-week ceasefire in Gaza and the release of 40 hostages — female soldiers and other women, men over the age of 50 and men in critical medical conditions.
  • In return, Israel would release roughly 700 Palestinian prisoners, including about 100 who are serving life sentences for killing Israelis.

Driving the news: During his call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, Biden raised the upcoming round of talks this weekend in Cairo and asked Netanyahu to send his negotiators with a wider mandate than before in order to get a deal.

  • "He made clear to Netanyahu that everything must be done to secure the release of hostages, including American citizens, now held by Hamas terrorists for nearly six months," the U.S. official said.
  • After pressing Netanyahu, Biden on Friday asked the mediators in Qatar and Egypt to use their influence with Hamas.
  • "He urged them to secure commitments from Hamas to agree to and abide by a deal," the U.S. official said.
  • A second source familiar with the issue confirmed Biden sent the letters.
  • Qatari and Egyptian officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

What's next: U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to meet the families of the American hostages on Monday at the White House, the U.S. official said.

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